Much is required of a prime minister's wife. As a hostess, sympathetic ear and adviser, she must ensure her husband never puts a foot wrong (and never do so herself). Arguably she has one of the hardest jobs in politics - without ever stepping into the House of Commons. Of the wives from the past two centuries featured in this book, nearly all have given their husbands unqualified support in political matters, two notable exceptions being Emily Palmerston and Clementine Churchill, who were always ready to dissent. And, until Audrey Callaghan and Cherie Blair, none had careers of their own. They came from a variety of backgrounds: some, such as Emily Palmerston, Caroline Lamb, Catherine Gladstone and Dorothy Macmillan, from the ruling classes. Two - Clementine Churchill and Margot Asquith - had aristocratic connections, while Lucy Baldwin's father was a scientist, Mary Ann Disraeli's was a junior naval officer and Margaret Lloyd George's a Welsh hill farmer. In terms of their marriages, some were secure, some wobbly and one actually broke down. In the case of Clementine Churchill, her marriage to Winston of fifty-seven years was a particularly remarkable achievement. Mark Hichens examines these women - and one husband, Denis Thatcher - in the light of their personalities and achievements as well as the roles they have indirectly played in British history in this timely volume.